Three Messages to Send Donors in January

Three Messages to Send Donors in January

End-of-year fundraising may be over, but that only sets up some key messaging for January.  In this episode, I’ll give you three key messages to send donors in January (plus a bonus).

After the big year-end fundraising campaign, it’s tempting to let out a big sigh of relief and sit back for a bit. But you’ve built momentum over the last few months, and you don’t want to drop it now. Send these messages to donors in January to keep them engaged in the new year.

Use giving statements to build relationships.

There is one obvious piece of mail you need to get out to donors this month–that’s the giving statement. You need to send these out for anyone who gave $250 or more. But don’t just send out a dry financial statement with a boring letter that says, “Here’s your statement.” 

That is a missed opportunity.

That giving statement is a cause for celebration! Send a letter with the statement that essentially says, “Look at what you did last year!” Remind those donors of the impact their gifts had. The accomplishments, the souls reached, the lives saved, whatever your mission is, let your donors know their donations are STILL being celebrated, and there is more work to do. You’re excited they’re with you, because xy and z still need to be done. 

Celebrate everyone.

Thank everyone who donated to your nonprofit in the past year (not just in December – and not just those who gave more than $250). But don’t stop at monetary gifts.

Remember to thank the people who donated their time and energy. Volunteers give you their TIME. Don’t ever forget that we can make more money, but we cannot make more time. Volunteers are giving you something they can never get back. Their time is a precious gift.

Sometimes fundraisers tell me it feels strange to thank people who haven’t made a donation. Thank them anyway. You have people praying for you who never tell you they’re doing it. You have people who tell their friends, who mention you and who share your social media posts. You never know. Thank everyone for being with you and sharing your mission. It never hurts to show a spirit of gratitude.

Make an extra effort to welcome new donors.

During year-end fundraising, you’ve picked up new donors and you only have a tiny window to invite them into a deeper relationship. From Thanksgiving to year’s end, between 70% and 75% of one-time donations are from brand new donors.

Brand new donors don’t know you well.

Brand new donors can quickly forget you and move on to the next thing.

Brand new donors, if you haven’t thanked them properly, may feel unappreciated or even duped. These will likely leave and not come back.

More than 80% of new donors will never give again.

Is that because new donors are just flighty and fickle, or do new donors (everybody, really) need to be nurtured and cared for and loved so that they want to be more involved?

Give your new donors some extra love. Thank them for that gift–again! And send them a welcome packet and an email welcome series that tells them more about your vision and how they can be involved. The goal is to build relationship and nudge them toward a second gift.

Prepare them for what’s to come.

Your thank you message should include something about what they can expect from your organization in the months ahead, and remind them how their support makes this possible. Add a personal touch by pointing out initiatives you know that donor is likely to be interested in joining.

If someone donated to your Spring fundraising campaign, send them a thank you message along with a reminder that you’re running a similar campaign again this year. If they like to give to matching campaigns, let them know when your next matching campaign is.

You can combine these messages in any way it makes sense for you and your mission. Just remember every message helps keep you and your mission top of mind.

What to do When the Stories Aren’t Pretty

What to do When the Stories Aren’t Pretty

Sometimes things don’t turn out the way we planned. When that happens, use the opportunity to invite donors to have a closer look at the important work you do.

We love a good transformation story: someone was hurting. Things were all wrong. Then your donors stepped up and your organization did life-changing work. Those stories are powerful and effective, and we love to tell them.

But what if things didn’t turn out so well?

How do we tell a story when it’s just the beginning of a long process of change?

How do we tell stories when we don’t know the ending?

I believe some of our internal conflict over these stories is our fear of giving donors a not-so-perfect picture of our mission. On the one hand, we’re seen as the experts. But really, there are so many factors beyond our control. We cannot fix it all.

I’m not talking about taking responsibility when we mess up (more on that another time). I’m thinking about those interventions where we did our best, and it seemed like things were okay. We saw change. We may have shared a story from a beneficiary who made a radical turnaround because of our work. But a few months later, they were right back in that unhealthy situation. Do you tell that story?

You probably don’t want to (or need to) highlight that person’s personal setbacks. But there are stories you can tell around the experience:

  • Explain the process of change your beneficiaries go through.
  • Focus on one aspect of the change process and help supporters understand why it’s such a hurdle.
  • Share a story about the setting that causes difficulties in the change process.
  • Feature something in your work that deals specifically with one of those hurdles.

This works for unfinished stories, too. For complicated stories, and for slow change. Use setbacks and the unknown to invite your donors to draw close. You’ll be glad you did.

Quote image: When things don't turn out as planned, a well-told setback story can give donors another reason to support you." Kay Helm LIFEANDMISSION.COM'
How Introverts Can Navigate Events

How Introverts Can Navigate Events

I have a love-hate relationship with conferences and networking events. While I love to meet new people and to learn new things, large or busy events can get overwhelming. I’m an introvert. I like my alone time. After a lot of activity,  conversations, and noise, I need to go somewhere quiet and recharge. 

Last week’s Daily Writer Retreat got me thinking about the advantage of smaller events (at least for me). This was a two-day event, with dinner together at a local restaurant the night before. It was a small event, really much like a mastermind, with only a dozen people. That’s one of the things that made this an easy ‘yes’ for me. 

Here are some things that made this event a success  for me:

  • Community & collaboration are powerful.  The hotseat approach (like a mastermind) gave everyone a chance to benefit from the experience and insight of others. The structured approach and focus gave everyone a chance to share their ideas.
  • Simplicity sparks creativity.  In contrast to over-programmed conferences, 
    the slow, simple approach meant we could have deeper conversations and process them in real time, giving new ideas the room they need to develop.
  • Introverts are amazing. In the right environment, introverts are generally superstar listeners. This meant advice from fellow attendees was more likely to be useful and relevant. I think we all left with realistic next steps.

The format of this retreat allowed us, as introverts, to contribute (and receive) consistently through the two days we had together.  Conference planners, if you’re not allowing time and space for introverts to shine, you’re missing out!

Introverts, understanding how you react to different environments, and structuring your time at events so that you get the breaks you need can make the difference between exhausting and exhilarating!

For more information about the Daily Writer Club – click here (affiliate link)

Using Stories to Connect: Mary Valloni interviews Kay Helm

Using Stories to Connect: Mary Valloni interviews Kay Helm

The tables are turned as fundraising expert Mary Valloni interviews Kay about using stories to connect with donors.

We talked about:
Using stories to connect
Where we go wrong with storytelling
Stories for people in admin roles
Telling your own origin story
The key story we forget

And don’t miss the story I’ve been telling for our ministry for SIX years…

Missionary fundraising training with Mary Valloni

Level up your storytelling skills with Kay

Help Donors Catch Your Stories

Help Donors Catch Your Stories

Your donors are busy. They’re tired. They make decisions all day in a world where everyone is clamoring for attention. Here’s a simple way to help them “catch” your stories.

Have you ever opened an email from a nonprofit and the thing just kept going on, and on? Or it was formatted to look like their print newsletter, and turned into a maze of misshapen text on your phone? Did you fight through and read it? If you did (most won’t), could you recall anything it said?

The idea of sending a regular newsletter is not a bad one. Printed. Sent through the postal service. With a return envelope for donations. The problem comes when we try to send that same newsletter by email. First, the formatting is going to be a bear.

The real problem is when we try to put a bunch of stories into one email, readers can’t “catch” them.

They open the email (maybe), see how long (or crowded) it is, and move along to the next thing in their inbox.

Even if they love you.

Try this instead:

Write your beautiful print newsletter. Include all the key stories a newsletter needs. Then, spread those stories out over several emails.

One story. One email.

If your newsletter has a constituent story, a donor story, and a volunteer story, that gives you three emails to send with content from your newsletter.

Think of storytelling like a game of catch, and each story is a ball. I toss you a story; you catch it and read. If I toss you several balls at once, how many will you catch? Even if you’re super-motivated and nimble, it’s likely you’ll miss most of those balls.

However, when I toss you just one ball at a time, you can easily catch it and respond.

Your donors are busy. They’re tired. They make decisions all day in a world where everyone is clamoring for attention. Balls coming at them. all. day. long. You can be the bright spot in their day by tossing them just one ball at a time.

When you try to cram several stories into one email message, other stories dilute your primary story and your call to action.

Treat your emails like a game of catch. Send one story at a time.

Try it and let me know how this works for you!

Adjust Your Messaging to Fit Your Donor’s Journey

Adjust Your Messaging to Fit Your Donor’s Journey

Our stories have the power to move supporters along on a journey: introducing them to a problem, dispelling myths, offering hope, introducing them to our organization, showing them how we solve the problem, building trust, and inviting them to take action. 

At any point in time, you’ll have people at different stages along these five levels of awareness (from copywriter Eugene Schwartz):

  1. Unaware – They don’t even know there is a problem.
  2. Problem Aware – They know about the problem, but not about solutions.
  3. Solution Aware – They know about solutions, but not so much about your organization, the work you do, or what makes you special.
  4. Brand Aware – They know about you! But they aren’t convinced you are the right fit for them.
  5. Most Aware – They get it! They know about the problem, what you do to solve the problem, they know, like, and trust you, and they’re ready to join you (just waiting for you to ask). 

It’s important to think about the donor’s journey, and where they are in it, when crafting our stories. We must also consider our organization’s goals (increase monthly donations, bust a myth around the problem we solve, attract volunteers, etc.) and position ourselves and the story accordingly. 

Address potential donors according to the stage of awareness they’re in. Do this, and donors will be more informed, engaged, and ready to respond when it’s time to ask for their support.